The first national census since the Communist takeover was compiled in 1953, in an effort to assess the human resources available for the first five-year plan. At that time, the population of China was found to be 582,600,000. A second census, taken in 1964, showed an increase to 694,580,000; the third, in 1982, revealed a population (excluding Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) of 1,008,180,000, making China the first nation ever to pass the billion mark. Between 1953 and 2008, the death rate dropped from 22.5 to about 7 per 1,000 population, while the birth rate declined from about 45 per 1,000 to 14. Life expectancy at birth in 2008 was 71 years for men and 75 years for women. The net natural increase declined from about 22.5 per 1,000 in 1953 to 13 per 1,000 in 1991. Nevertheless, at that rate China would still show an annual population growth of nearly 18 million, leading to a projected 1.3 billion Chinese by the year 2000.
The decrease in fertility recorded between the 1950s and 1990s was largely effected by government efforts to promote late marriages and, more recently, to induce the Chinese family to have only one child. This programme has been coupled with the continual expansion of public health facilities that provide birth-control information and contraceptive devices at little or no cost. It was officially estimated in 1984 that 70 per cent of all married couples of childbearing age were using contraception, and that 24 million couples had formally pledged to have no more than one child.
Abortion is legal, and social pressures, or more drastic official action, are applied to terminate a pregnancy with women who already have one child or more. Since 1988 a second child has been allowed, four years after the first, to peasant couples whose first child was a girl. The national minorities have generally been excluded from the government’s birth-control programme, in keeping with a policy of allowing the non-Han peoples a maximum of cultural independence. In 1980 the government reported that 65 per cent of the population was under 30 years of age. Thus, a substantial proportion of the Chinese population will be of childbearing age for at least the next several decades. In September 1982, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party declared that the nation must limit the population to 1.2 billion by the end of the century, a goal requiring an intensification of population control efforts, but already exceeded by 1995.
The measures adopted, including forcible abortion late in pregnancy, have led both to widespread worldwide condemnation and to problems such as female infanticide and kidnapping of women, as the Chinese attempt to reconcile population control with traditional pressures for large families and male heirs. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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